Sports injuries and why they’re avoidable
More than 3.5 million kids under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year.
While this is an alarming statistic, not all sports injuries are created equal: acute injuries account for a small percentage, but the majority are chronic, meaning they build over long periods of time as a result of poor movement patterns and overuse. Chronic injuries are usually reoccuring, and not managing them can be detrimental to an athletic career. The good news is the chances of developing a chronic injury can be lessened by ingraining proper movement in athletes from a young age. In fact, the younger you start the process the better.
If what you’re looking for is that competitive edge, nothing will get you further in your athletic career than learning and mastering the basics of movement. It is the best way to reduce risk of injury and facilitate a long, successful athletic career. More and more kids are being prematurely pushed to specialized training in hopes of becoming the next Tiger Woods or Kobe Bryant, but they’re missing the big picture. Whether the goal is competing in the olympics, or a long, healthy life, the foundation is the same. It is important not to rush the development of the basics.
We can all identify that person in the gym or on the field that just “moves really well”. They are composed and smooth in their movement, and we often say things about them like “they’re so athletic” or we quickly attribute their ability solely to genetics, when in reality athleticism can be learned and cultivated. Movement, mindset, and achievement of goals are processes that demand intention, discipline, focus, and the ability to identify the variables which are in the athlete and coach’s control.
There are many potential obstacles that can arise during a successful athletic career and with regards to Olympic Weightlifting, the stigma of injury is one of them. There are assumptions about high injury rates in Weightlifting that create a barrier of entry in the sport: Parents are afraid of their kids lifting weight, “stunting their growth”, and/or getting injured under heavy loads, but proper movement fundamentals at a young age are the best way to control these issues.
Many myths about Weightlifting have presented themselves in the past. People look at the Snatch, Clean & Jerk and squats and assume that they are bad for your knees and back. The idea that Weightlifting has a disproportionately high injury rate in comparison to other sports is not supported by any empirical data and as the sport grows in popularity we are seeing a slow shift in this mindset. The truth is that Weightlifting is much less dangerous than many of the sports parents sign their children up for. According to a review done by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Weightlifting has a much lower risk of injury than contact sports. They looked at 9 studies and concluded that Weightlifting ran the same risk of injury as other non contact sports.
Getting younger athletes involved in Weightlifting is the next frontier. Although it may be uncommon in America, many countries have programs designed to teach children the fundamentals as early as possible. The earlier the child is able to drill the technique, the better chance they have to succeed later in the sport without injury. Why do we allow our children to learn the fundamentals of sports such as baseball, football, and soccer at a young age, but shy away from Weightlifting? Instead of our children moving with light loads and empty bars building proper technique, they are forced to stay away from barbells and PVC pipes. By the age actual weightlifting movements are taught, in high schools or college, it is done quickly in large groups of athletes where it’s almost impossible to teach the safe, technical foundation of a Snatch or Clean & Jerk - just look around in any high school weight room, poor technique and injury-prone movement is everywhere. This quick, ineffective teaching is done in order to get as much strength from an athlete while spending the least amount of time with them. This method decreases the value the lifts bring the athlete as a whole and hurts the athlete in the long run. Those who learn to move properly off the field, will excel on the field and limit the chance for injury by a large percentage.
Athletic development programming for kids is the road to a long, healthy athletic career. Chronic injury is a huge problem in sports, but it can be avoided with good coaching from an early age. At SoCal Weightlifting Club, we wish someone had given us what we offer to our young athletes and we know any of our other weightlifters would say the same. We have heard countless people talk about how bad their early exposure was to strength and conditioning, and many others say they never had it in school at all! To be given the guidance at a young age that builds a foundation upon which all athletic potential can be accessed for as many years as possible is priceless. So together let’s control the variables we can and get young kids moving properly!